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Texas opens hunting season to help alligator control

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Texas opens hunting season to help alligator control

By LYNN BREZOSKY

Associated Press

RIO HONDO — Listed as endangered a few decades ago, alligators these days are keeping game wardens busy as they respond to calls about the scaly reptiles being spotted alongside highways, behind strip malls, and in the manmade lakes of gated housing developments.

The state's solution: More alligator hunting.

April 1 marks the beginning of the first spring alligator hunting season in Texas, allowing one alligator per hunter in areas beyond the traditional zone in the state's swampy east.

And the new season comes with loosened restrictions, which worry some longtime hunters.

Hunters will be allowed to shoot alligators during nesting season and can shoot alligators in open water, which can leave a wounded and now even more dangerous animal sitting in the bottom of a pond.

Traditionally a state warden permits alligator hunting only after a property meets a set of criteria. This season, Texas Parks & Wildlife specialist Amos Cooper said, is "for any Joe with water and an alligator."

"The bottom line is their habitat is expanding," Cooper said. "People who have never seen an alligator, they start complaining. So they (state officials) decided that they needed to do something. This is one method that they chose to solve that problem."

It's not so much that there are more alligators in Texas as that their wild habitat has been replaced by decorative ponds and irrigation waterways in newly populated areas that the alligators can't help but try to claim.

David Martin, head of herpetology at the Gladys Porter Zoo in Brownsville, said alligators were rarely if ever seen in the Rio Grande Valley before the 1970s, with sightings increasing steadily since then.

"We actually have created a lot of habitat," he said.

The Rio Grande Valley's "resacas" (oxbow lakes left by former channels of the Rio Grande) in the past would have gone dry in the summer but now are kept full. Newly built canals also give alligators more room to roam.

The American alligator is North America's largest reptile and is native to the southern United States, including East Texas. It was hunted to the verge of extinction during the first half of the 20th century.

Florida was the first to begin protecting the alligators during the 1940s, followed by other Gulf of Mexico states. Texas enacted complete protection in 1969, after alligators here had all but disappeared.

The species made a comeback and was removed from the endangered species list in 1985, prompting states to gradually phase hunting back in.

Alligator harvests in Florida this fall were at a record high 5,800. Louisiana, king of alligator country, harvests 32,000 to 34,000 alligators a year. Georgia had 3,000 applicants for the 500 permits it issued for its fourth season last fall, while Alabama's first season was launched with 13 killed on opening night. South Carolina may be next to join in.

Texas' new season and rule changes will not take effect in the 22 "core counties" in East Texas, where alligator hunting is part of the region's economy. In those areas, Cooper said, the state doesn't want to risk depleting the population by expanding hunting.

"They're wanting to protect them in this area," Bay City hunting tour operator Larry Robinson said. "They don't want the same results as the 60s and 70s, when all the alligators got killed off."

Robinson uses the traditional method — alligators are hooked with some sort of bait and hauled in before being shot and sent to a processor.

Larry Janik, an El Campo-based alligator farmer and state-contracted nuisance control hunter, said he was shocked by the loosened restrictions.

"We don't hunt any other animal or creature while it has a nest full of eggs," he said.

He also said he feared the day an inexperienced hunter tried to dive in the water to find the alligator he shot.

"He's laying there alive but just crippled," he said of the alligator. "You know he's like any other animal, he's going to be aggressive at that point. ... Well, before long you're going to end up with a dead man and I don't like that.

"I mean if they're going to have a season, good. But abide by the alligator proclamation issued by Parks and Wildlife that says you will either hook him, snag him, or snare him under legal means. And then shoot him."

Cooper said the eased regulations are designed to keep people safe as the alligator population expands.

"It's not that we don't care about those animals. That was just one way to help those guys be able to harvest some of those animals that the nuisance control hunters would be getting calls on," he said.

He said the breeding season was when the alligators moved around most and when wardens were getting most of the calls.

He said most hunters can't retrieve alligators shot in open water, but he hoped the water was shallow enough on some properties for it to work.

Janik said he gets the bulk of his calls from Houston suburbs in Fort Bend, Brazoria, and Harris counties.

"In Fort Bend County, there's so many subdivisions coming up, they're getting more and more and more into these habitat areas," he said.

Janik said that when people feed alligators, the alligators lose their fear of people.

"Because of kids laughing, playing, talking, you would think that's be the last place a wild animal would want to go. But the alligator knows that 'hey, that's lunch. That's where I'm going to get me something to eat.'"

http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/headli...ro/4618605.html


"Credibility in immigration policy can be summed up in one sentence: Those who should get in, get in; those who should be kept out, are kept out; and those who should not be here will be required to leave."

"...for the system to be credible, people actually have to be deported at the end of the process."

US Congresswoman Barbara Jordan (D-TX)

Testimony to the House Immigration Subcommittee, February 24, 1995

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Filed: Country: Belarus
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Kill em all.

The rattlesnakes, too.

We're going to round 'em all up and send them to Jersey. You can make some sort of curry dish with them if they don't eat you first.


"Credibility in immigration policy can be summed up in one sentence: Those who should get in, get in; those who should be kept out, are kept out; and those who should not be here will be required to leave."

"...for the system to be credible, people actually have to be deported at the end of the process."

US Congresswoman Barbara Jordan (D-TX)

Testimony to the House Immigration Subcommittee, February 24, 1995

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